Leaders Ask Good Questions

Contributed July 7, 2021 by Cheryl Viola, Executive Director, MBA

One of the things you should be asking yourself as a leader is if you are giving more answers or asking more questions. The best leaders know that to truly be effective you must do one thing really well…. Ask good questions.

From the time we are young we are taught to ask questions. Asking questions can be terrifying because we do not want to appear dumb or uneducated. The way I view it is that there is no dumb question. Questions are how we learn.

If you are the leader that always provides the answer you are restricting your team’s growth and innovation potential. Leaders need to ask powerful and inspiring questions that invite team members to come together, explore new opportunities.

Good questions are powerful. They allow others to think through decisions and develop answers. You are helping them grow. You are also helping them to see the bigger picture and can persuade others to your way of thinking. When you ask a question, you need to be quiet and allow time for others to think it through and answer. Too often we fear silence. Silence is a powerful tool.

Some thought-provoking questions to ask your team:

  • What is a game-changing opportunity that could create much more value than we have delivered in the past?
  • What do we do better than anyone else?
  • What can we improve on?

These types of questions invite collaboration. Don’t just ask your team, ask your customers and people in the community. Reaching beyond the institution to connect with expertise and perspective from broader more diverse sources will help move the business forward.

Questions serve a few purposes.

  • Open-ended questions help expand the conversation. They help fill in the information gaps. They get a person talking, and sharing details that allow you to understand them to discover new ideas.
  • Questions builds trust because it shows that you are taking an interest in the person and what they have to say.
  • Questions build and change cultures.
    • When encouraged to ask questions employees will feel like they are part of the solution and will feel valued when they feel they are heard and understood.
  • Improved decision-making skills.
  • Builds trust through transparency

Here are a few tactics that can assist you to become better at asking good questions.

  • Ask one question at a time.
    • This one takes a lot of practice. At least for me. There are times when I want to do a rapid-fire of numerous questions and I need to take a breath and remind myself to allow others to answer.
  • Do not over-explain your question, just get to the point.
  • Genuinely listen to the answer (even if you disagree).
  • Ask real questions, that you want the answer to.
  • Ask follow-up questions.
  • Allow for silence and pauses. Give them time to think.
  • Authentically acknowledge the answers without chiming in with your own opinion.

John Maxwell said: Good Leaders ask great questions that inspire others to dream more, think more, learn more, do more, and become more.